100 Days of Captivity for Nigerian Students
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 10:56 AM

MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirls 100 Days of Captivity for Nigerian StudentsJuly 24, 2014, is the 100th day of captivity for the remaining 219 teenage girls still held by Boko Haram terrorists.  On April 14, nearly 300 school girls were kidnapped from a school near Chibok in northeast Nigeria.  Approximately 57 students managed to flee shortly after they were captured when Boko Haram terrorists went to attack another village.  According to a mediator working with Boko Haram, two of the girls have died of “snake bites,” while another twenty are seriously ill.  Rallies to support the young women will take place today around the world.  There will also be a rally today at noon at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C.  Among the invited speakers at the Washington, D.C., rally will be Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.  Chibok and nearby villages are particular Boko Haram targets because they are enclaves of devout Christian believers in the predominantly Moslem northern Nigeria.  Further, the leader of Boko Haram released a video in which he mocked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign famously championed by Mrs. Obama and Secretary John F. Kerry’s Department of State.

Sadly, since April, international attention for the school girls has waned, and media reports indicate that the 219 students are being held captive in the Sambisa Forest, which is an area of thick jungle and open savannah, bordering on sand dunes at the edge of the Sahara Desert.  There have been reported sightings of the girls and their captors in neighboring Cameroon and Chad as well.  Adding further tragedy to the kidnappings, eleven parents have died since the mass kidnapping.  Seven of the girls’ fathers were among 51 killed earlier this month after another attack by Boko Haram in the village of Kautakari.  Further, at least four more parents have died of heart failure and other illnesses blamed on the trauma caused by the kidnapping.  The British Daily Mail reported that community leader, Pogu Bitrus, said one father of two of the kidnapped girls simply went into a coma-like condition, where he repeated the names of his daughters until he eventually died.  Every village in the area of Chibok has been attacked and ransacked, along with all the villages bordering Cameroon.  The Boko Haram attacks continue despite the fact the Nigerian military has placed the area under a state of emergency since May 2013.  Although the Nigerian military presence has increased dramatically in the area, soldiers often refuse to deploy to villages under attack even when there are advanced warnings, which is typically the case.  In addition, transportation in the area is hampered because the frequent Boko Haram attacks have left the roads impassable with burned-out automobiles and other debris.

On this 100th day of the captivity of the school girls, please remember to pray for their release, and to pray for their families who are suffering greatly.  Please also pray for their persecutors that they might turn from their wickedness, and come to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.



Mere Links 07.24.14
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 12:01 AM

Five Rules for Consoling the Dying
Russell E. Saltzman, First Things

There are some things that should never be said to the dying. I’ve never bothered developing a comprehensive “no-no” list but years of parish ministry have attuned me to the particularly egregious.

The Problem With Britain’s Latest Suicide Bill
Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, Aleteia

Suicide and killing people are two things that the Church has always declared to be wrong. It has therefore been of considerable interest in the UK this last week that a proposed law was put forward for debate which would authorize assistance with both.

Islam’s Religious Exemption From Criticism
William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine

udging from their behavior, most policymakers seem heavily invested in Islam’s survival. Their reasoning goes roughly as follows: Islam is a religion; religion is a stabilizing force in society; therefore, the flourishing of Islam is vital to the stability of the Muslim world. Hence, the consensus view is (and has been for a long time) that it is desirable to prop up Islam and provide bailouts when needed.

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Birth Control’
Karen Swallow Prior, Christianity Today

Meaningful debate requires us to define the terms of discussion.



Mere Links 07.23.14
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

Raise Your Voice for Religious Liberty
Jennifer A. Marshall, The Gospel Coalition

The backlash against simply participating in civil discourse about an important topic of public concern is alarming.

A Line Crossed in the Middle East
Mark Movsesian, First Things

What the end of Christianity in Mosul means for Christians everywhere.

Hobby Lobby and Employment Discrimination
USCCB, Crisis Magazine

To dismiss concerns about religious freedom in a misguided attempt to address unjust discrimination in the workplace is not to advance justice and tolerance. Instead, it stands as an affront to basic human rights and the importance of religion in society.

George Whitefield at 300
Credo Magazine

We live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today.



Mere Links 07.22.14
Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

ISIS to Christians in Mosul: convert, pay or die
CNN

Just days after the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said they killed hundreds of Syrians, dozens of Iraqi Christian families are now fleeing the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, hoping to avoid a similar fate.

Europe Moves to Outlaw Organ Trafficking Worldwide
Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times

An official European representative body has promulgated a new convention outlawing the trafficking in human organs, calling on all countries to become signatories to it and criminalize the practice and punish offenders.

Uncle Sam Eavesdropping Outside the Confessional
Aaron Taylor, First Things

The state of Louisiana may be about to go where even rabidly anti-Catholic England in the seventeenth century dared not.

The Parent Trap
Ross Douthat, New York Times

The pattern — a “criminalization of parenthood,” in the words of The Washington Post’s Radley Balko — still looks slightly nightmarish, and there are forces at work here that we should recognize, name and resist.



Stratford Caldecott, R.I.P.
Monday, July 21, 2014, 10:41 AM

I came to Stratford’s work too late, but better late than never. He was one of the few men since Russell Kirk who really knew what a liberal education was all about, and who could show what he saw to others.

There are a few people in the cold Gobi Desert of academe who hold to something like a liberal education because they see its political utility, and they are right to believe that a healthy civilization requires the remembrance of what the wisest among us have had to say about the human condition. They read Thucydides, Petrarch, and Marcus Aurelius for profit.

Stratford Caldecott transcends them all, because, unlike them, he was in love with beauty and goodness, and so he could read and teach others to read Cicero not so much to learn about wise political action, as to learn about being human—or as Kirk puts it, being virtuous, being a man. He would never say that we should read history lest we repeat it, but that we should immerse ourselves in the wonder of creation and of that human creation we call art, so that we might lean towards the divine, as flowers lean towards the sun. In this sense he stands with Plato, Sidney, Johnson, Coleridge, Ruskin, Eliot, Lewis, and Kirk; a worthy battalion, against all the dreary utilitarians who have transformed our schools into ghastly and largely incompetent training centers.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat super eum.

—Anthony Esolen



Touchstone published three of his essays. The first, Speaking the Truths Only the Imagination May Grasp, had been planned as lead essay in a new volume of classic Touchstone articles, Creed & Culture II. Caldecott was the author of many books; his last: Not As the World Gives.



The Islamic State Caliphate Establishes “Justice”
Monday, July 21, 2014, 10:28 AM

Islamic State, the radical Islamist militants and al Qaeda offshoot, seeks to establish an Islamic “caliphate” that straddles Syria and Iraq, at least for the time being.  As part of their governance, they impose a 7th century view of Islam in society.  In the northern Syrian town of Tabaqa in the province of Raqa, the jihadists accused and convicted a woman of adultery, and stoned her to death last Thursday.  The stoning took place in a public square in the town’s market area.  The unnamed woman was reportedly in her thirties, and was sentenced to death by a “religious” court.  The woman’s family did not know that the sentence was going to be carried out.  Many residents are terrified of the Islamic State jihadists, but fear the consequences of reacting to and criticizing their harsh methods.

In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, now also controlled by the jihadists, the Islamists have issued an ultimatum to the few remaining Christians to either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, the infamous “jizya,” or be executed.  (Interestingly the status of Christians as dhimmis was abolished during the Ottoman reforms in the mid-19th century.)  The order went into effect this past Saturday.  The order said Christians who remain in the “caliphate” must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract.  Under the status of dhimmitude, non-Moslems who were either Christians or Jews were “protected” in Moslem lands in return for a special tax known as “jizya.”  (Think of it as a protection racket.)  The announcement by the jihadists said that Christians were offered “three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”  A resident of Mosul said that the statement, published in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, was issued in the name of the Islamic State and distributed last Thursday, and read in mosques on Friday and broadcast through automobile loudspeakers.  A Saturday deadline was set for Christians who did not want to stay under those terms “to leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate.”  The terms were announced by the jihadist group leader Caliph Ibrahim, or as he was formerly known, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Fewer than ten years ago, the city of Mosul had more than 100,000 Christians living in the city, but today, estimates are that there are fewer than 200 Christians.

Some of my readers may be unaware that the Koran teaches Moslems not to make friends or allies with Jews and Christians (Koran 5:51), and that Moslems are to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission” (Koran 9:29), and to kill the disbelievers wherever Moslems find them (Koran 2:191).  The Koran further teaches that all those who disbelieve in Islam shall go to hell (Koran 5:10), even though Moslems are given no assurance of eternal life in Islam.  Further, all non-Moslems are najis (broadly defined as filthy and impure) (Koran 9:28), and Moslems are ordered to fight non-Moslems until no other religion except Islam is left (Koran 2:193).  Of course, much more could be said to show that Islam is not really a religion of peace notwithstanding the assertions of some in the United States and other Western nations.  Sadly, I don’t expect to hear President Obama or Secretary of State John F. Kerry say anything to oppose the horrors of jihadist rule in the pretend caliphate.  It is stunning to me that they don’t, but then again, perhaps they don’t see Islamist rule negatively.  The irony is that President Obama and his supporters say nice things about Islam and refuse to criticize Islamists other than in the most inane twitters (“Bring Back Our Girls”).  Yet they seem quite blind to the true desires of what some Moslems, including the jihadists, want: world domination and the destruction of everything you and I believe and hold dear.

Jihadists have no problem killing any of us (in the same gruesome way that they did with Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl), raping our wives and daughters, and then stoning them to death, and then taking our children from us for not raising them in their special way.  What will the leftists and secularists do when Islamists tell them to pay up, get out, or get killed?  I am not convinced that President Obama cares, as he might be focused on enjoying his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard in August.  It must be lovely though to be there to get away from the cares of a deeply fallen and dangerous world.  For our part, please continue to pray for the Christians throughout the Middle East, and for the repentance of the jihadists.



Mere Links 07.18.14
Friday, July 18, 2014, 9:25 AM

Why I’m Against United Methodist Schism
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Some evangelical United Methodist friends have suggested our denomination possibly enact a formal division between conservatives and liberals.

Sexual Assault: What Does the Hook-Up Culture Have To Do with It?
Adelaide Mena and Caitlin Seery La Ruffa, Public Discourse

The sexual assault epidemic on college campuses is created, in part, by the effects of the hook-up culture.

Hearings on S. 1696: The Planned Parenthood Protection Act
Susan E. Wills, Aleteia

Undermining 40 years of abortion regulation in one easy bill.

Help Your Kids Say ‘No’ to Porn
Jen Wilkin, The Gospel Coalition

We may stall on the sex talk, but the world will not.



Mere Links 07.17.14
Thursday, July 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

Boko Haram Shows No Mercy in Nigeria, Wrecking Churches, Homes, Lives
Robyn Dixon, L.A. Times

When Boko Haram invaded her village last year, the Islamists extremists burned the churches, destroyed Bibles and photographs and forced Hamatu Juwanda to renounce Christianity.

Senate Considering Bill That Could Wipe Out Many State Pro-Life Laws
Sarah Torre, The Daily Signal

A sweeping bill that could eliminate many commonsense state laws protecting women from the harms of abortion was considered in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.

The Progressive Appeal to an Imaginary Calendar
Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

There’s no reason to assume that the position we hold to is right because it’s Tuesday and not Monday. And yet, that’s the kind of ”appeal to the calendar” we often witness in popular progressive circles.

What You Should Know About the Border Crisis
Joe Carter, Acton Institute

In 2013 the federal government housed about 25,000 minors who were going through deportation proceedings. This year, that number is expected to rise to over 60,000. There has also been an increase in the number of UAC who are girls and the number of UAC who are under the age of 13



Professor Takes University of North Carolina to School
Thursday, July 17, 2014, 9:20 AM

Dr. Mike Adams is a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington (the “University”).  In 1993, he was hired by the University as an assistant professor.  Over his career, he received numerous teaching awards and earned accolades from his faculty colleagues.  In 1998, he was promoted to Associate Professor.  However, in 2000, Dr. Adams, an atheist, became a Christian believer.  Unsurprisingly, his conversion impacted his political and social views, which became more conservative and reflected traditional values.  However, his conversion and his subsequent change of views did not sit well with his esteemed University colleagues.  After his conversion, he became the subject of baseless accusations that led to numerous investigations by the University.  Further, he was denied promotion to full professor despite an award-winning record of teaching, research, and service to the University and broader community.  In fact, his scholarly work surpassed most of his faculty colleagues.  Dr. Adams believed that he was denied promotion because his nationally syndicated opinion columns espoused religious and political views that were in conflict with opinions held by University officials.

As a result of harassment against him, Dr. Adams filed a lawsuit against the University to vindicate his rights.  He was represented by attorneys affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”).  ADF fought a protracted legal battle on Dr. Adams’ behalf that has lasted seven years and ended this past Tuesday.  Following trial, a jury found that Dr. Adams had been illegally targeted by University officials, and the federal court ordered the University to promote Dr. Adams and to award back pay.  The University decided that it would appeal the federal district court’s decision in Dr. Adams favor.  However, on Tuesday, the federal court entered an order based upon an agreed settlement between the parties in which the University agreed to drop its appeal.  In addition, the University agreed to adopt procedures to protect Professor Adams from renewed retaliation and harassment, and to pay $615,000 in Dr. Adams’ attorneys’ fees.  So now the taxpayers of North Carolina are stuck with a $615,000 bill for retaliating against a conservative Christian by University officials.

ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham said the following regarding the final agreement in this case:

Public universities must respect the free speech rights of their professors, regardless of the points of view they express.  Public universities should be a marketplace of ideas, not places where professors like Dr. Adams face years of retaliation and discrimination for expressing views university officials do not like.  The court’s order reminds universities that disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views are not grounds for denying him a promotion.

In a very strange part of this case, Federal Senior Judge Malcolm J. Howard of the Eastern District of North Carolina, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a President Reagan appointee, ruled that the opinion columns written by Professor Adams were not protected by the First Amendment.  (Yes, I know; it makes no sense to me either.)  Fortunately for Dr. Adams and for those interested in academic freedom, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the decision by the Honorable Judge Howard and determined that the First Amendment did protect his published opinions.  (It might be a very good time for the 75-year-old Senior Judge Howard to give up the federal bench and take up shuffleboard instead.)  The appellate court held that “no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”  Opinion columns, such as those in Mere Comments, the New York Times, the Federalist Papers, or the Anti-Federalist Papers, are classic examples of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

I join in congratulating Professor Adams and the students at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington for learning a valuable lesson about the meaning of free speech.  Kudos also to the attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom for their persistence and success for this seven-year legal battle!  Please pray for Dr. Adams and his family as he moves onto a new phase of his professional career.



Mere Links 07.16.14
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:00 AM

New Tests for Five-Day-Old Embryos Raise Pro-Life Concerns
John Burger, Aleteia

Will techniques lead to more discarding of IVF-created unborn children?

9 Things You Should Know About Mormonism
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Nine things you should know about the beliefs of one of America’s fastest growing religions.

The Difference Three Percent Makes
Betsy Childs, First Things

In the article“Women forced to travel as Deep South closes doors on abortion clinics,”Al Jazeera America draws attention to a trend that is either heartening or ominous depending on your side of the abortion divide.

Is There Growing Confusion over Church Teaching?
William Oddie, Crisis Magazine

What exactly is going on, when Bishops and parish priests can so radically differ about the most elementary issues of faith and morals—about teachings which are quite clearly explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church—and when simultaneously one Cardinal describes such teachings as “crazy” and another simply expounds them as the immemorial teachings of the Church? Does nobody know what the Church believes any more?


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